Monday, May 31, 2021

Wildflower Trail (Escondido Creek in Spooks Canyon)

On Memorial Day, the sun burned off the May Gray for a few hours so Tori and I took advantage of the sunny sky to hike Wildflower Trail in Olivenhain for the first time. The hike begins on Fortuna Ranch Road, heading south on a horse trail lined with white painted fences. After a half mile we reached the loop intersection and decided to go counter-clockwise. After the dirt trail enters a gated community of expensive ranch houses, it becomes a pleasant walk on shady streets before the path heads south on Staircase Trail (No Stairs!) that climbs over a small ridge.




As we descended the other side, we left the ranch houses behind and entered Spooks Canyon Trail with the Escondido Creek running down the center. There is a small hidden park with a swing set and picnic tables where the trail parallels the stream. Tori and I had fun crisscrossing the creek in several places on the fallen logs and the exposed stones. One of the rocks was loose and and I ended up soaking a shoe as I tried to save my balance. Ha!


The most strenuous part of the hike was climbing the rising trail out of Spooks Canyon. Near the end of the loop the trail cuts through the center of Wildflower Farm on Old Oak Trail. It was nice walking through the horse stables and practice rings of the Equestrian Training facility. Leaving the farm, we reconnected to the spur trail that led back to our parked truck. If you want to shorten the 3.3 mile hike, you can skip walking through the streets of the gated community on the north side of the loop and take Vineyard Trail through the center as a shortcut to the entrance to Spooks Canyon.




Monday, March 22, 2021

Oculus Quest Virtual Reality (Supernatural VR Fitness and The Climb 2)

Kenny brought over his new Oculus Quest 2, the virtual reality headset from Facebook. I have only tried a couple other headsets but this is the best experience with VR that I have experienced. Not only was it self-contained with no need to connect to a pc or console, but it was comfortable to wear and it didn't tire out my eyes as quickly as the last one I tried. While Kenny says he has experienced motion sickness a few times, it was no problem for me. I think that is probably more dependent on the type of game being played.

We all tried Supernatural VR Fitness, the subscription-based rhythm game where you try to hit the flying targets while ducking and dodging obstacles. It is a fun and quite a workout! I was breathing hard and sweaty after my first song. I can see this being addictive. The best thing is that I didn't feel dizzy afterwards at all. The biggest danger is losing control of the two hand remotes and throwing them across the room. I did hit myself in the head once while dancing to the music. Ha!

My favorite game was The Climb 2 but I would not recommend playing it if you have a fear of heights! It was very cool to rock climb while dangling off the side of a towering cliff face. I tried falling or jumping to catch another rock handhold and I felt the definite thrills of excitement from being so high off the ground that can't be duplicated with regular games.

Calavera Volcano Hike (Quarry Ascent and Handstands)

On Sunday, Tori and I went for hike with Kenny and Tommy. Mount Calavera (Skull Hill) is what is left of one of North America's smallest volcanos and one of only three in Southern California. This extinct volcano erupted 15 to 22 million years ago. The outside of the volcano slowly eroded away over time and all that is left is the volcanic plug that clogged up the throat of the crater. In the 1940's, rock and gravel was quarried from the raised mound to build a dam for the water reservoir at the base of hill.



When Tori and I first visited Mount Calavera in January 2020, we reached the summit by hiking up the rear of the volcano after attempting the steeper route through the old quarry. While we had turned back two-thirds of the way up when the trail faded away into loose shale, this time I spotted a different cutback in the cliff face. This new route was steeper, but the rock steps provided solid footing as we scrambled all the way to the top. Success!



After reaching the lip of cavern, we hiked the rest of the way along the edge of the steep cliff with sharp drop-offs. The summit has great views of Calavera Lake and the surrounding neighborhoods.



On our way back down, Kenny and Tommy took turns practicing their handstands on the narrow trail despite the uneven ground making it tough. Instead of descending back down the middle of the steep crater, we followed the western ridge all the way down.



After our hike, we went to eat at Park 101, the outdoor BBQ joint in Carlsbad Village. The brisket was very tender and the seasoned fries were awesome. My favorite item was the daily special, the Green Bean Soup with Andouille Sausage.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

AcroYoga at Scenic Overlook (Carlsbad State Beach)

For this weekend's AcroYoga practice, Tori and I went to the tiny scenic overlook park that sits above the Carlsbad State Beach. Before the pandemic, there would be the occasional AcroJam at this grassy location.


After dinner in Carlsbad Village, we walked along the Sea Wall Trail to the rock jetties at the entrance to the Agua Hedionda Lagoon. The lagoon is in the middle of being dredged and huge rubber pipes were pumping a flowing slurry of sand onto Carlsbad State Beach. The water desalination plant is now in charge of removing the buildup of silt in the lagoon, taking over from the decommissioned Encina Power Plant. We walked out to the end of the short jetty where we could see a crane at the top of the 400 foot smokestack slowly dismantling it. It already looks a little shorter.



Below are videos of the ocean flowing against the jetty of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon. The second is a time-lapse video.

Sunday, March 07, 2021

AcroYoga at Veterans Park (Agua Hedionda Lagoon)

After a couple hikes at Veterans Memorial Park, Tori and I decided the Agua Hedionda Lagoon and the 400 foot tall smokestack of the Carlsbad Power Plant would a great backdrop for AcroYoga. We had two new poses that we wanted to try, modified Side Stars where we locked feet to counter-balance the hands-free variations. They were more difficult than they looked and it took us several attempts at each before we could hold them steady. In the 3rd picture, we also revisited another counter-balance pose where I held Tori's lower foot with my hand instead.



While the park's grassy hills are great for picnics, even the fairly flat spots have a downward slope that made it hard to balance an AcroYoga pose. For the Shin to Foot and Free Star poses, I needed to place a folded mat under my hips to counter the uneven ground. I brought my Nikon in order to zoom in the background but the hills preventing me from placing the telephoto lens far enough away for the full effect.



After our successful practice, Tori and I went for another hike around the park's 1.5 mile Loop Trail to cool down. In a previous post, I mentioned the City of Carlsbad's plans to transform the site into a finished park with a veterans memorial, playgrounds, picnic areas, rock climb, bike course, fitness areas and restrooms. The City Council unanimously approved the recommended master plan in concept in February 2021. It looks like the plan will not be finalized until the Fall.





After our walk, we were starving and went to dinner at Norte in Carlsbad Village. It was our first time eating at the Mexican restaurant since the pandemic started. Instead of servers waiting on tables and bringing food, they have outdoor seating and we had to order food take-out style at the counter. It was funny but they have a new Boba Tea sealing machine at the Bar and they were using it to individually seal our margaritas.  :)

Monday, March 01, 2021

Del Mar Mesa Preserve (Vernal Pools, Eucalyptus Grove & Tunnel 4 Trail)

While we visited Los Penasquitos Canyon last November to hike to the Penasquitos Creek Waterfall, we return this time to explore the 8 miles of trails in the Del Mar Mesa Preserve that only legally opened to the public in 2015. The 900-acre nature preserve occupies a mesa that rises to the north. From the Del Mar Mesa Trailhead at the end of Park Village Road, we started our hike on Powerlines Trail, named for the transmission towers that flank the dirt road climbing the north slope of the long Los Penasquitos Canyon. 




At the top of the Powerlines Trail that ends at a gated housing community, we turned right to enter the Del Mar Mesa Preserve along The Fire Road. Walking along the busy trail, we encountered two forks in the main trail. The first fork splits left into a one-way mountain bike trail called Bowtie Rim that rejoins at the next fork where we left the Fire Road to go right toward the Eucalyptus Grove. The tall non-native trees framed the antenna-covered summit of Black Mountain in the distance.




Past the grove of eucalyptus, there used to be a local trail that extended further out onto the mesa, but is now off-limits to create a protected habitat area and wildlife refuge. To the left of the blocked trail is the entrance to Tunnel 4 that leaves the mesa to descend into a narrow canyon alongside it. A forest of scrub oak covers the trail with its thick canopy that gives it its descriptive name. The dark winding trail with banked turns is popular with mountain bikers and several passed us on our hike down.




At the bottom of the shade-filled tunnel, the ground leveled out and opened into a sun-dappled forest with the stream bed of Deer Creek running through it. If we had continued on, we would have reached Deer Canyon Trail that travels west to meet up with The Fire Road and climbs back up to Del Mar Mesa via Cardiac Hill. Without an accurate map, we decided to retrace our steps up Tunnel 4 instead.




The sun was setting as we passed through the Eucalyptus Grove and onto the Fire Road with several pools of water running down the center. They are examples of the numerous Vernal Pools that the preserve was created to protect. These small pools of standing water that only last a few months of the year are a special ecology and provide an important habitat for the local plants and animals of this dry chaparral environment.